How I Lost 35 Pounds Thanks to the Taliban, Bad Food, and Good Exercise
Before I came to Afghanistan I used to joke that I was going to an All-Inclusive, All-Expenses-Paid Health Resort. I wasn’t kidding. Although I said it tongue-in-cheek, my plan was to treat Afghanistan as just that – a free resort supplied by my government where I could either lie on my ass and watch re-runs of television on my computer, or I could do everything I could to better myself, so that when I left I’d be that much closer to the man I want to be.
|My First Month|
“So what’s the issue?” you ask.
I like my life so much I want to be around to be in it for a long long time.
“So what’s the issue?” you ask again.
Somewhere between being an athlete and a martial artist and a success I became a man who weighed 275 pounds and got winded climbing a flight of stairs. I was closer to being a contestant on The Biggest Loser than I was to winning the lottery. Oh sure, I joked about how much a monetary investment I put into my body—good wine, good food, good times. But I forgot to realize that with everything there has to be a balance.
This doesn’t mean that if you have good you have to have bad.
But it does mean that if you’re going to treat your body like a massive caloric repository, you need to treat it nicely or else you might not have a body to treat.
And by treat it nicely we don’t mean beat it to shit at the gym so you promise never to return. That’s happened way too often in my life. In this world of instant food, instant entertainment, instant knowledge and instant communication it seems ridiculously old school that our bodies can’t be instantaneously changed, but that’s the way we were made. And although scientists have designed cars which can park themselves, they haven’t designed a body which can exercised itself (but I’m on the lookout).
Well, it’s been just over 90 days since I left for Afghanistan. I came here weighing 275 pounds. I now weigh 240 pounds. For those who might be math-challenged that’s a 35 pound weight loss.
So how’d I do it?
First let me explain how I got to be a 275 pound man.
Food. Wine. And sloth.
|After 60 Days|
Must be good genes, I told myself. He must just be one of those guys.
Isn’t it amazing how we can fool ourselves? Never underestimate the ability of the human body to fight to retain its own weight. If we aren’t smarter it will take complete advantage of us. After all, it can make us feel good. The best we can do is make it feel bad.
Which is what worried me. I didn’t want to be in pain. I wanted to lose weight the nice way, letting my calories float into the ether, serenaded by a group of winged cherubs who looked mysteriously like Mumford and Sons.
Then I remembered a phrase from my Army days- No Pain No Gain.
Dear lord. Is that what it’s going to take to get back in shape? To change my body image? To become healthy? Does it really involve pain? Can I just get hit by a truck instead and maybe lie in a bed with a body cast for three months? I bet I’d lose weight then.
As it turns out, it doesn’t have to hurt. In fact, it shouldn’t hurt. If you’re hurting when you exercise, more than aches and pains, you’re doing something wrong.
So here are the three things which have helped me.
· General Order #1
· Healthy Eating
· Healthy Exercise
General Order #1: It has a lot of words in it and says a lot of interesting things but what me and most of my friends get out of it is NO ALCOHOL. This doesn’t mean I’m going to quit drinking when I get home, but it does mean that when I’m at my health club (aka Afghanistan), I can concentrate on my body using simple math instead of adding the crazy quantum mechanical algorithms alcohol throws into it.
But how do you know you’ll be able to drink and stay healthy when you return home? Shouldn’t you join an Amish community, swear off television, and stop drinking in order to remain healthy? I suppose that’s an option. But instead, I have a better idea. I have a writer friend living in Wales who drinks and eats what he wants and exercises and writes successfully. How does he do it? He doesn’t forget to exercise. He drinks a little less. He also eats healthier. So for at least the start of this, I have someone who is living the life I want to live.
Now to get there.
Healthy Eating: It’s really simple math. It’s also crappy food. I have to admit up front that it would have been much harder to lose 35 pounds in 90 days if I was stationed in Italy, or France, or in America next to a Whole Foods. But I’m not. Even if I was, I would have still been doing this. The journey might have been a little longer and a little harder, but I’m serious. See, whenever I thought about how good something would taste or how I was missing something, I’d remind myself that I have a whole lot of time to make up for it when I get back. If I can only say no for a little while longer, I can say yes for the rest of my life.
So what’s the math? I figure out my Basal Metabolic Rate add in the calories accrued from my daily
exercise and subtract the calories which
represent what I eat. As long as I end up with a negative number I’ll lose
weight. If the negative number is too high, then my body might go into
starvation and it will stop acting like I want to. If the number is in the
positive, then I’m not losing weight. It’s simple, but like a lot of math, it
|After 45 days Here|
What I eat is also important. I don’t eat hardly any bread, beef, or pork because it’s not good here. I don’t eat fish because I’m in a land-locked third world country with questionable transportation and cold storage and my momma didn’t raise a stupid son. But I do eat canned tuna, salmon and sardines at least five days a week. I stay away from potatoes and veggies with a high glycemic index level. But I eat the hell out of salads, have lots of chicken, and snack on fruit. I even use Caesar dressing. Why? Because it’s only slightly higher in fat and calories than olive oil, so why not eat something that tastes better.
I also cheat one day a week. How do I cheat? I have a Pizza Diavolissima from Ciano’s. This is an authentic Italian pizza with pepperoni, mozzarella and blue cheese, and hot red peppers. And yes, I usually eat the whole thing. I do this when the mess hall has Mexican night because, well, it’s either that or not eat at all.
Healthy Exercise: Yoga and cardio. In fact, I do Diamond Dallas Page Yoga (DDP Yoga), or Yoga for Real Guys (YRG YOGA). They’re the same program, marketed under two different names. This is power yoga with isometrics, pushups, and complete body investment. I do this six days a week. Not only is it a great introduction to yoga, but both the videos and the audios of the workouts are easy to follow. So imagine me with my yoga mat in the gym plugged into Diamond Dallas Page yelling at and encouraging me through each and every move. Trust me. I got plenty of funny looks. So what.
I also do cardio. I’ll eventually get around to lifting weights, but I wanted to concentrate on my legs. Since they are my platform, and they’ve been broken since the Veteran’s Administration decided I was a 70% disabled veteran because of what the U.S. Army did to me, I wanted to get my legs and feet right. So I’ve been concentrating on my cardio. I spend a minimum of 30 minutes on the treadmill every workout. Most times I walk real fast, but sometimes I run. Not a lot, but some. I hope to eventually run the entire period. I also do Stairmaster for 20-30 minutes, especially if it’s a day without Yoga or a day where I do a short workout (25 minutes) vice a long workout (55 minutes).
In fact, I’ve bought some toe shoes and have started running in them.
So that’s me. That’s what I’ve done so far.
I have 90 more days to go. I have a pretty significant goal, one which I set when I first arrived. If I stay focused, I should be able to achieve it. The reward is who I get to be when I return and I can’t wait.
Any questions? Comments? WTFs?
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